Life-changing surgery: the Head TransplantBy Dania Vargas Austryjak
Italian surgeon insists it’s possible.
30-year-old Valery Spiridinóv from Russia is hoping to overcome a degenerative disease by literally changing bodies from the head down, as it is currently impossible for him to support his own skeleton. The plan would involve Italian neurosurgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero making a complete head transplant to a healthy body in order to – possibly – extend his life.
Valery Spiridinóv was diagnosed with Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a rare genetic condition which prevents muscles from growing from the patient’s first year of life onward. Around 50% of people diagnosed with this disease have a life expectancy of a year. Spiridinóv, however, is now 30 years old and has opted for this drastic and innovative form of surgery.
The medical community has responded skeptically to this procedure. Mexican neurosurgeon and spine surgeon, Teódulo Valenzuela Hernández, explained that even today, it is still science fiction to think a head transplant could be possible as the spinal cord is a very complex body part. Dissecting it is, on its own, an irreversible injury. It would also involve having to reconnect the trachea, esophagus, nerves, and arteries.
Amid the controversy, Spiridinóv is going through with the operation, which could be carried out in 2017. For him this is one of the few choices he has left, so his decision is definitive. “This technology is similar to the first man to walk in space,” stated Spiridinov to RT. “[I]n the future it will help thousands of people who are in an even more deplorable state than I am.”
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